Does Media Has a Role to Play in Time of National Crisis  Term Paper

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media's role in time of national crisis. The writer explores what occurs in a national crisis and argues that the media has a duty to exercise caution when reporting during times of national crisis. There were ten sources used to complete this order.

Does Media have a role to play in time of National Crisis

When there is a national crisis the media takes a lot of heat. If it reports everything without holding back it is accused of sensationalism and drama seeking antics. If it holds back information it is accused of slanting the news and of political motivation. Regardless of what angle the media takes there will be someone to say it was the wrong one. In the end the media can only follow an ethical and professional path and let the chips fall where they may. One of the most hotly debated topics in recent years regarding media coverage is national crisis. When a national crisis occurs, such as 9-11 or the Iraqi War the media has to make some extremely tough decisions. Should it present everything it finds out, because the public has a right to know? Or should it be ever sensitive to national security temper its desire to uphold the first amendment with the desire to provide national security some latitude? When all is said and done the media has a role to play during times of National Crisis and that is the role of level headed information. The media needs to report the events as clearly as possible without jeopardizing national security issues at the same time.

The network anchors are far more than journalists during times of national crisis. As they reassure the public, they play the roles, consciously or not, of minister, counselor, leader -- which can make it tricky when they have to once again raise tough questions about government policy. Just for a moment, Peter Jennings was aware that he was doing something that went far beyond simply reporting the facts. He had been in ABC's anchor chair for more than 12 hours September 11, relaying information as rapidly as the network could gather it, when he thought of the sociological role television, and he as an anchor, played in such a national crisis.ABC News would stay on the air for an "indefinite period of time," he told viewers, to report on the terrorist attacks, and also because of something a historian once told him -- "that the television set is roughly equivalent to a campfire in the days as the wagon trains were making their way westward and there was a catastrophe on the trail. Some people pulled the wagons around, and sat down and discussed what was going on, and tried to understand it, and then went on the next day. And we do that in front of our television sets now in large measure today."

The media plays an important role during times of national crisis. People who are frightened and scared turn to the media to find solace, guidance and direction.

When something happens that is jarring to the system, and this surely was, you turn to symbols of continuity, of reassurance, and [the network anchors] served that role," says former broadcaster Marvin Kalb, executive director of the Washington office of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy."

One of the most important examples of the media's responsibility when it comes to national crisis is the events of 9-11. "The unique situation allows researchers to investigate how television networks and newspapers brought their competitive advantage into full play in reporting news and how the media tackled the complicated crisis situation involving national interest. " A study of eight newspapers and five television stations coverage provides an examination of how the media handles news during a national crisis and provides an understanding of the role media plays in such important events.

In general, studies have shown that stories are framed differently on the issues covered, and that the media are similar in the principal issues presented. Newspapers and television networks also differ in the themes and patterns of the coverage of the same event. Also, government sources play a major role, and sources use may vary according to how news is framed. However, few studies have examined framing in the separate stages of a crisis or mapped continuous coverage during the first intense hours of a breaking crisis."

During the 9-11 crisis media worked to bring the important information to the public.

Major topics on which newspapers focused were business (14.08%), air traffic and safety (12.1%), World Trade Center (11.27%), terrorism and criminal activity (9.01%), presidential and government activity (8.17%) and the American public (7.61%). Television networks focused on the World Trade Center (28.92%), presidential and government activity (17.55%), terrorism and criminal activity (10.21%), the Pentagon (7.52%) and air traffic and safety (5.91%)."

The focus on national crisis issues often bring cries of political motivation from the public in regards to the media actions. The New York Times and the Washington Post were researched in how they handled the events of 9-11 beginning on the day of the event through October 7.

In general it is not possible for the media to report with a totally unbiased view because of the feelings and national pride or anger that individual journalists feel. "First, most journalists at U.S. news outlets are American citizens, and their reporting and world views almost inevitably reflect ethnocentric biases. (17) As members of the national in-group, journalists are likely to possess many of the same cultural values and beliefs that other members of the nation possess -- values and beliefs that act as a filter through which news and editorial content is produced. Ethnocentric reporting has been found to be most acute in coverage of U.S. involvement in international events and seems likely to reflect nationalist themes in crisis situations in which there is a perceived threat to national interests or national security. (18) In the case of the Sept. 11 events and subsequent war on terrorism, it seems probable that U.S. journalists' sense of national identity -- like that of many other citizens -- became heightened, and that this increased sense of American-ness would be reflected in subsequent news coverage, including editorials."


While journalists are supposed to try and remain neutral they are human and presenting themselves or the stories they write from a detached point-of-view is not always possible. During times of national crisis journalists often allow their feelings and emotions to show through.

The media has a role to play during times of national crisis because of the impact and power that it has on the public. The media can drive stock prices into the ground or into the sky depending on how it chooses to present a national crisis situation to the public. "Defining a national crisis as a time when five or more large headlines occurred within a seven-day period, Niederhoffer found 11 crises in the sample interval. Among these were the beginning of the Korean war in 1950, the capture of Seoul by the communists in 1951, the Democratic National Convention of 1952, Russian troops' threatening of Hungary and Poland in 1956, the entry of U.S. marines into Lebanon in 1958, Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev's appearance at the United Nations in 1959, the Cuban arms blockade in 1962, and President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963. During these so-called crises, 42% of the daily price changes were "big" changes, as compared with 20% for other, "normal" time periods. Thus the crisis periods were somewhat, but not dramatically, more likely to be accompanied by big stock-price changes."

On October 13, 1989, there was a stock market crash that was clearly identified by the media as a reaction to a news story A leveraged buyout deal for UAL, the parent company of United Airlines, had fallen through. The crash, which resulted in a 6.91% drop in the Dow for the day, had begun just minutes after this announcement, and so it at first seemed highly likely that it was the cause of the crash. "

For one to understand how important the presentation of national crisis is to the public by the media one only has to look at a recent study about news following 9-11. One study concluded that public news watching and reading increased significantly following the destruction of the World Trade Centers.

This study found that the use of local TV news and network TV news increased significantly in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, but readership of newspapers and news on the Internet did not. Five months after the attacks 41% of respondents said their news media use had increased. "

The use of the media as a security blanket during times of national crisis is not unusual. Since the beginning media coverage the public has turned to media for its information. In times of national crisis the media provides information, instructions, directions, comfort and fear…

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